Jackson County Park fire: Multiple deaths likely as fire destroys 35 boats in Scottsboro, Alabama today
Boaters leaped into the water to escape a fire that consumed at least 35 vessels docked along the Tennessee River early Monday. Authorities said there were fatalities as 7 people were sent to hospitals.
Scottsboro Fire Chief Gene Mecklaus told CBS News that nine people are unaccounted for and of those missing, some are most likely to be fatalities. Necklaus said the fire destroyed at least 35 boats docked in Jackson County Park.
WHNT reports 17 agencies are on the scene, some with search and rescue boats.
UPDATE: Scottsboro Fire & Rescue has confirmed multiple fatalities. 7 people were taken to the hospital and 7 others are unaccounted for. Waiting to get an exact number of lives lost. 35 boats were destroyed.
The blaze was reported shortly after midnight as people living in the riverboat community were sleeping, and consumed the wooden dock and an aluminum roof that covered many of the vessels, cutting off escape routes and raining debris into the water.
“There were numerous people rescued from the water who had escaped by going into the water,” Jackson County Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Rocky Harnen told The Associated Press shortly after dawn. “We’re trying to get divers down here to search for possible victims in the water.”
This photo provided by Mandy Durham shows a fire burning on a dock where at least 35 vessels, many of them houseboats, were destroyed by fire early Monday, Jan. 27, 2020, in Scottsboro, Alabama.
Mandy Durham via AP
“We have some confirmed fatalities, but we don’t have an exact number yet,” Harnen added. “We have several people who were taken to the hospital from being in the water, and some had minor burns.”
Harnen said officials are trying to account for about people who had places on the dock.
“They had slips here,” Harnen. “That doesn’t mean they’re in the water and it doesn’t mean they’re dead. We’re making attempts to find them.”
It’s been a challenge for rescuers to reach the victims, Harnen said: “The damage from the dock has fallen on top of the boats, and some of the boats have drifted off,” he said. The aluminum roof and wood structure was destroyed, as were about three dozen boats. Crews also were using booms in an attempt to contain fuel in the water, he said.
Crews were called to the fire at about 12:30 a.m. on Monday. The chief said most of the vessels had people living on board.
The Jackson County Emergency Management Agency says firefighting and rescue operations have been taking place on land and in the water.
The park on the Tennessee River includes a boat ramp, a dock and a restaurant, and offers boat rentals, according to Jackson County’s government website.